Eat, bray, heave

I like to think that I have quite an adventurous palate, even if my stomach isn’t always capable of keeping up.

After a self-policed childhood diet of chicken nuggets and chips, my parents were finally able to coax a few new courses onto my plate and I haven’t really looked back since.

In the intervening years, I have eaten horse, kangaroo, crocodile, wild boar, squid, octopus, oysters, crab, seaweed and snails. In Romania alone I tried sheep’s stomach, cow’s brains and unpasteurised milk. And since my arrival in Russia, I have finally added sushi and raw meat to the list, too.

On Friday, however, as we placed our orders for lunch in Mario’s (where I was finally able to break my 5000 rouble note), I inevitably met my match. Requesting the beef tongue, I took my seat with a mixture of anticipation and apprehension. Were we talking braised beef or bushtucker trial?

While it was by no means a complete specimen, very little effort had been expended trying to disguise the fact that this had once been the mouth-piece of a very unfortunate cow. Boiled and served as one big long slice, I quickly lost my own appetite as I contemplated a whole new meaning to the phrase “a cow’s lick”.

After posting pictures to Facebook and Twitter for posterity (and, ideally, a little bit of pity), I sliced off a thin strip with as few obvious taste buds as possible and did my best to cover it in rice. I opened my mouth and tried not to think about my own lunch being able to taste me back.

Although tender — and tasty in its own way — I couldn’t quite reconcile the fact that I was basically snogging a dead farm animal. The final straw came when I realised what the slightly gelatinous texture reminded me of: mushrooms. Thankfully, I stopped eating just moments before my digestive tract entered emergency dry-heave-mode.

I know that in some parts of the world — Russia included — tongue is considered something of a delicacy. Not even that, but a very ordinary and traditional dish. That said, for me it was anything but, and I don’t think I will be ordering it again any time soon.

After all, I’ve always had an irrational fear of swallowing my own tongue, let along somebody else’s.

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